Systematics, taphonomy and palaeoecology of resin-preserved microorganisms II


The term amber fossils is largely associated with inclusions of insects, spiders and plant remnants. However, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoans may also be preserved in fossil resins. Frequently these soft-bodied microorganisms are lacking otherwise in the fossil record. Because of the sometimes excellent mode of preservation of cells and cell organelles they become of increasing interest in palaeontology. This is especially because they give new insights into higher-level phylogeny.



Within the project "Systematics, taphonomy and palaeoecology of resin-preserved microorganisms" (supported by the German Research Foundation, project no. SCHM 2152/1-2) amber of several geological epochs is investigated for microinclusions. Rare fossils, for example fungi, are not only preserved in the ca 40 million year old Baltic amber. Numerous microbes are also found in ca 100 million year old Cretaceous resins. Many of the algae, fungi, ciliates and amoebae are identical to extant species. Others, however, are archaic representatives which are not known from modern ecosystems. The microorganisms preserved in amber lived in wet tree bark and in small aquatic habitats at the resin-bearing trees or in wet forest soil. They became preserved as the liquid resin entered their microhabitats. Often several species are associated in a single piece of amber. Conclusions regarding the ancient biocoenoses of the amber forests are therefore possible. Actualistic studies, previously only carried out under laboratory conditions, are done in the field to comprehend the taphonomy of microorganisms in resins. The consideration of microinclusions in amber research therefore allows to do a holistic research on the biota of Mesozoic and Cenozoic forests.


Principal Investigators
Schmidt, Alxander Dr. (Details) (Outside Custodies)

Duration of Project
Start date: 05/2007
End date: 06/2008

Last updated on 2020-09-03 at 17:05